I would love to be one of those blogs that tells people the best 36 hour schedule in a city or 5 days to see the best top “not-so-tourist” sights. It would be prettier if I took the time to take stunning shots of foreign lands to inspire your next destination but I only have a backpack so a broken iPad and lightweight 35mm camera is what we got going for us. I should be better at remembering the names of all the places I go but when I’m in it I’m not thinking about remembering it, I’m thinking about being present in it. I don’t know if these things will change. When I travel I travel for me in that moment. It’s ideal that every place I visit is a stepping stone to a more understood me relative to the worlds I immerse myself in.
I can’t find you your Oaxaca but maybe my “Never say no, let the trip guide you” mentality can inspire you to travel more free.
I got to Oaxaca on a whim with less then 12 hour warning. I had not researched it. I knew nothing except that it was south of Izúcar, it’s a must visit place for Dia de Muertos and my new compadre had an uncle heading there. I undoubtedly hopped in the car.
My new compadre is also my interpreter, tour guide, free place to sleep connection and my travel companion until we get sick of one another. At this point I have known him for about 43 hours when we met at 3 am at a Mexican wedding in his hometown 3 hours south of Mexico City. The ride was longer than expected. This was needed to adjust gradually to the shift in energy I felt as we crossed the border of Puebla to Oaxaca. I felt a new kind of air fill my lungs and blood stream with awareness of the magic I possess.
We did some slight research on those blogs I had previously mentioned. The first idea was an early morning walk to Monte Alban ruins. However, our plans quickly changed when Armando’s uncle decided to take the day off work to show us around. First off we had to drop off his daughter and then his wife at the ice cream factory they both work at.
12 : We tour a Oaxacan ice cream, Popsicle and ice factory where they produce 23 tons of ice a day. They have 33 stores in Oaxaca and are planning to expand. The owner is good friends with Armando’s family and he was happy to show us around. I swear this isn’t the set of Breaking Bad.
2 : There is a tree that is around 1400 years old, takes 40 people to wrap around it and it is in Oaxaca. It was magical and no picture can capture it’s beauty, smell or magic. But here is a tease if you ever find yourself in these parts.
3 : We walk around the Mercado next to the Ahuehuete of Santa Maria del Tule to try a coconut drink called Tejate made cocoa, maiz, azucar water, mamey and agua and browse the native clothes. We compare some prices and I try on some outfits called “huipil”. We shortly leave and start to drive to a destination unbeknown to me. At this point I hadn’t known where we were headed when we went to the factory or the tree and I didn’t need to start to knowing the plan now.
“STOP, STOP, STOP!!!!!”
They pull over the car and I proclaim “That’s it! I found what I came to Mexico for!” I run down the street to a man throwing a shuttle back and forth through the threads pulled tight on a telardes (loom). He is weaving a large tapestry. In the Mercado I felt a lack of authenticity as half the items were from out of the country and the rest held pesado price tags. Besides a young girl embroidering some imported cloth it all felt common. This tiny shop was the real deal and as my heart skipped I began to cry with joy.
4 : Zona Arqueológica de Mitla are ruins secluded in this southern region of Mexico. I sat on the top of some steps and overlooked the great landscape. Again tears came to my eyes as I recalled six years ago when I could have succeeded on taking my own life. Here I am in Oaxaca. Here I am alive.
5 : I think we are heading back to the car when I start to pick up on some words I know “Fabrica de Mezcal”. We are heading to a place where they make Mezcal. We tour down some roads on the south side of the ruins. We curve around the block. There is a tiny store front with a bar that has no seats. We walk though the back. While we missed the process by a day… it was not shy of an amazing experience. We tried every bottle of Mezcal. The woman of the 4th generation of this tiny business explained the process, the types of plants and the romantic nature of agave. I offered to help cut agave this winter and she seemed enthused.
6 : Armando’s aunts sisters birthday at her house with 3 generations and a bottle of recently purchased Mezcal. They offer me soup and I proudly dive in. Armando knows not to tell me what I am eating until after I have finished. They don’t speak English but I have been practicing learning Espanol by using Spanglish. I somehow have managed to tell jokes and make them laugh despite my 20 word Spanish vocabulary. I make them name the worms in the Mezcal bottle. I almost die on a piece of jalapeño in my beef foot stew. I sing Happy Birthday in English for the birthday Señora. I teach the grandfather to say “I am handsome” and he teaches me soon forgotten native dialect.
At this point tiempo es muy late and going to the downtown is probably not going to happen. I immerse myself with this familia. By the last hour I have received my Mexican name “Torro Rico” to compliment my tour guide “Torero Sauve”. I make a funny reference to Guerrero and we all start laughing “Rico. Sauve.”
A niece comes in and starts dropping Johnny and Jimmy Pocito out of our Mezcal bottle. This brave soul is going to eat the big worm. They insist I at least try the poco worm.
As we leave the baby takes some of her first steps to me and the grandfather proclaims something indiscernible in Spanish sand my interpreter steps in to tell me that “his home is always open to me”.
It’s been an incredible day to say the least. I really have said the least possible I could about today. I gained so much peace with mi spirito and felt like I was with family in a familiar space. I never felt like I didn’t speak the language because language isn’t just dialect. It is the way we listen, feel and gesture. We say so much through our actions and inflections. We build so much when we take away all the non-sense/material things that identify us. When we can’t engage through speaking with our throat and past our tongue there is nothing to hide behind and we are left speaking from our hearts.